Thursday, August 9, 2007


I have an office! It's all mine! It's not the one that it looked like I was going to get when I visited in June, because apparently the department has been playing Musical Offices, but this one has a view of trees too, so it's all good. They are dogwoods, and they will be pretty in the spring.

There's still a bunch of stuff left over from the previous occupant -- some files with student work, a bunch of literature anthologies and a science fiction novel that looks like it might be interesting, and a Canadian flag over the door (I may have to do something about that). The computer is his, too, and so far it refuses to acknowledge me as its new mistress. The A/C window unit is entirely too feeble to make a dent in the heat. Still ... office! My own!

I've been thinking a bit about office doors. Back when I was an undergrad, I used to like to look at them when I signed on for a class so I could get a feel for the instructor's personality. One of my favorite profs had Doonesbury cartoons about grade inflation. I went back for a visit in February and they were still there -- a little older and yellower, and they had been very yellow even when I was a freshman. The children's lit specialist in my grad department had a brightly colored poster titled "Telling About Books," with lots of happy multiracial children lounging around reading, and a list of questions: "Who was your favorite character? Which picture in the book do you like best? How did you feel about the end of the story?" Ah, if only things stayed that simple...

So anyway, I think office doors are important, for the same reason that the title of a paper is important -- you don't want your office to be the equivalent of one of those freshman essays entitled "Analyzation of a Poem" or "Essay #3." So I thought I'd do what one of my office-mates did when I was in grad school, and put up poetry. There needs to be more public poetry in the world. I've been going for a universities-and-teaching theme, like this:

In a Classroom
By Adrienne Rich

Talking of poetry, hauling the books
arm-full to the table where the heads
bend or gaze upward, listening, reading aloud,
talking of consonants, elision,
caught in the how, oblivious of why:
I look in your face, Jude,
neither frowning nor nodding,
opaque in the slant of dust-motes over the table:
a presence like a stone, if a stone were thinking
What I cannot say, is me. For that I came.

And like this:

Turning Thirty, I Contemplate Students Bicycling Home
By Rita Dove

This is the weather of change
and clear light. This is
weather on its B side,
askew, that propels
the legs of young men
in tight jeans wheeling
through the tired, wise
spring. Crickets too
awake in choirs
out of sight, although
I imagine we see
the same thing
and for a long way.

This, then, weather
to start over.
Evening rustles
her skirts of sulky
organza. Skin
prickles, defining
what is and shall not be....

How private
the complaint of these
green hills.


Anonymous said...

Congrats on your new office!

Here's another poem for your door:

It's on mine!


Fretful Porpentine said...

Heh, I've already got that one, actually! I was going to post it, but I thought it was a little too long.

Bardiac said...


Does yours have a window? Ours do. We faculty folk spend a lot of creative energy blocking out the window so people don't stare at us while we're working. Or something.

My first all alone office was in an old frat house that had been kicked out for (sexual) misbehavior. The downstairs was the writing center; second floor, the bedrooms had been converted to our English dept offices. I can't tell you how creepy it was, given the history, to have some old guy come in during homecoming and say that my office had been his bedroom.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Oh yes, I've got a window, and not one of those little vertical slits we had in grad school. (The campus where I got my graduate degrees has some real beauty spots, but the English building is NOT one of them; it's one of those concrete-block monstrosities built circa 1970, and the windows are mostly suitable for pouring boiling oil on student protesters.)

Anonymous said...

Hi! I found your site recently and am enjoying your reflections on the new environs. Congratulations the office and the move!

Like Bardiac's, my first grownup office had a window in the door. The office was also tiny, so I couldn't move the desk into a position where I wouldn't be startled every time someone looked in. Because the office was in a blind corner at the end of a hallway, people couldn't help looking in. After two weeks of surveillance, I started covering the windows with tea towels. I remember swapping out the Mappa Mundi for the Smithsonian's portraits of the 43 presidents. There was also one of the Krebs cycle. Since I was only a VAP, it was just as well that no one could figure out what I taught.

My current, windowless door is pristine, as is every other office door on my floor. It's a dreary sight, especially without students bustling through. Anyway, thanks for the misty, watercolor memories. Congrats and good luck!

Fretful Porpentine said...

Hi, Lucky Jane! (Great name, by the way.)

... Oh, right, the other kind of window -- somehow I missed that when I read Bardiac's post for the first time. Heh, those have got to be the strangest design feature ever; I wonder what they're supposed to be for?

Lea said...

Anent university/teaching-related poems, I am inordinately font of this poem, myself. Also the second one in this post.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Oh, thanks! I might have to add those two.